Boy was I in hot water yesterday!  I was about to hit the sack last night when an old friend called me.  She was very upset because she thought I had let the cat out of the bag about her party.  I told her to hold her horses, that I had done no such thing!  Although I had butterflies in my stomach, I asked her to give me an ear.  We mulled things over and came to grips with the fact it hadn’t been me that spilled the beans.  Finally, we mended fences and patched things up!  Whew, it was time to hit the hay!

I love teaching idioms!

Language is fun and idioms add so many ways for us to express ourselves.  As teachers, it is our job to help students not only recognize and use figurative language but, to help English learners (ELs) gain an extensive knowledge of how people use them to express themselves.  The unpredictable meanings of idiomatic expressions can get students in over their heads!  Teaching idioms to ELLs paves the way to comprehension.  When a second language learner has a robust understanding of idioms, they become better speakers, readers, and writers.

There are many fun ways to engage students when teaching idioms. 

When first introducing idioms make sure you introduce ones that have a clue to their meaning.  For example, I start my intermediate language level students with some of the following idioms:

Raining cats and dog (the meaning is connected with rain)

Call it a night (the meaning is connected with the end of the day)

It cost an arm and a leg (the meaning is connected with cost)

Crack a book (the meaning is connected with books)

So far so good (the meaning is connected with good)

I also introduce very common idioms like:

  • It’s a piece of cake
  • Pig out
  • Hold your horses
  • Cat got your tongue

Remember to only present a few phrases at a time.  Make sure you use them over and over again.  Tell stories about each idiom to reinforce understanding.  I like to tell students about when I was young and the idioms my dad would use!

Practice until they flow! 

There are tons of fun and engaging activities to practice idioms!  CHECK OUT OUR IDIOM RESOURCE HERE!



Quiz shows

Match idioms to their meanings

Task cards


Tell me what you think!

What activities do you use?

What are some of your favorite idioms to teach?

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